UPDATE 1/19 – David’s Bridal has reached out to me and they have removed the Best Dog bandana from their website and social media. This is something I greatly appreciate. They assured me their company values the work of creative people and small businesses. I will update with more information after I speak to them further. Thank you for the support, I have the BEST family, friends and customers. Michelle
I’ve been staring at the screen of my laptop for an hour. My coffee is cold, my thoughts are a jumbled mess and my feelings are hurt. This is a difficult post to write. So, while this may not be newspaper worthy journalism, it will be honest and real. This post focuses on how big businesses steal and profit off the ideas and designs of the little guys. In case it isn’t obvious…I’m the small business that the big guys stole from. I’m not alone, it happens too often. And it’s not okay.
This is me:
Back in 2013 I designed and began selling dog bandanas for weddings and pregnancy announcements. It started as a silly idea and became a product line that I’m incredibly proud of. I drew my ideas on paper, made a few samples to show friends and family, tweaked it a bit and ended up with my burlap bandanas. I’ve spent 5 years perfecting them.
Before I put them out publicly I scoured the internet for similar products. None existed. Etsy search? No results. Google? Nothing comparable. I did this for two reasons:
1. To be sure I was putting out something unique and all mine.
2. To be certain I wasn’t infringing on another artist.
What started out at my kitchen table has become my full time job. I’m an Etsy Seller, an Amazon Seller and also run my own website. I’ve been able to move my business out of my home and rent a studio. Like many other artsy people, my creativity has become the way I earn a living. And it’s been one of my greatest accomplishments. Besides my kids of course, they’re pretty cool too.
I regularly search Instagram for customer photos. Seeing the dogs (and cats) in my bandanas is by far the best part of my job. A few days ago I came across this post on Instagram.
I did a double take and thought, “Who took this picture of my bandanas?” Then I realized it was from David’s Bridal. The similarities are obvious. And being as my products are saturated online, I’m certain this is no accident. Their marketing people saw my bandanas, and copied them for their own profit. Their listings say, A David’s Bridal Exclusive. Ouch! That hurts.
Do a quick Google search for “Dog of Honor” or “Best Dog.” You’ll find me. You’ll find my products, customer photos, links to my shop and my product photos shared by well meaning bridal and pet sites. You’ll find my bandanas on Pinterest, you’ll find me on Etsy, you’ll find my website….you catch my drift.
I’ve been featured on a number of wedding blogs and in pet related articles. There is a definite online presence for Hello Hazel Company.
So what now? What is a small business owner to do? The first thing I did was search the internet for similar stories. Okay, I lie. The first thing I did was cry. I’m a mom. I have a mortgage. I have pets. All relying on me and this wonderful thing I’ve created. How could I compete with a huge company? Wait, no. The real question is, why should I HAVE to? Why do large companies think this is okay? Where is the integrity? Where is the respect for someone else’s hard work?
Hello Hazel Company does not have the resources to fight an intellectual property infringement battle. Most small businesses don’t. And that’s exactly what these large companies are counting on.
Then, an even bigger fear crept in. What if people see my shop and think I was the one who copied?! It makes me want to shout to anyone who will listen, “I was first! I can prove to you that I was first!”
Now, going back to my internet search. I found out this behavior is prevalent. Click the links for more information on the copy cats.
David’s Bridal stole a dress design, and also used the original designer’s photos.
The Gap created a product line that looks exactly like this artist’s work, after it was published online.
Target received complaints from this indie artist who realized her pattern was copied onto clothing.
Urban Outfitters has been accused more than once.
Resale company Cody Foster blatantly copied these designs.
Zara is another one.
H&M used stolen designs.
It’s not okay.
It’s not okay.
And above all, please support small businesses, local businesses, handmade vendors, Etsy sellers, young entrepreneurs, etc.
Being inspired by another’s work is okay. Theft is not.
P.S. – I have reached out to them and asked for the items to be discontinued. I’m certainly not holding my breath for a response.